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Fantasy baseball player profiles: AL - Relief pitchers

Fantasy baseball player profiles: AL - Relief pitchers

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Quick Jump: Fantasy Baseball Player Profiles

1 Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees
2 Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Boston Red Sox
3 Jose Valverde, RP, Detroit Tigers
4 Joakim Soria, RP, Kansas City Royals
5 Rafael Soriano, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
6 Andrew Bailey, RP, Oakland Athletics
7 Kerry Wood, RP, Cleveland Indians
8 Mike Gonzalez, RP, Baltimore Orioles
9 Bobby Jenks, RP, Chicago White Sox
10 David Aardsma, RP, Seattle Mariners
11 Kevin Gregg, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
12 Frank Francisco, RP, Texas Rangers
13 Brian Fuentes, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
14 Jon Rauch, RP, Minnesota Twins
15 Matt Thornton, RP, Chicago White Sox
16 J.P. Howell, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
17 Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers
18 Michael Wuertz, RP, Oakland Athletics
19 Kevin Jepsen, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
20 Matt Guerrier, RP, Minnesota Twins
21 Chris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians
22 Jason Frasor, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
23 Scott Downs, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
24 Fernando Rodney, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
25 Brandon League, RP, Seattle Mariners

Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

This past year's bugaboo: his 0.95 HR/9. What could come crashing down: His 91.8 percent strand rate, which still isn't a big increase from '08. You know that year is coming, but even then, how big will Mariano Rivera's drop-off be? This physical wonder hardly differentiates one delivery from the next. He has the setup for the saves. If you don't overpay, grab him. It's a contract year, after all....


Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Boston Red Sox
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
43465622314633.181.17

Jonathan Papelbon's GB/FB has heavily fluctuated (on the wrong side last year), and his opponents are lining his offerings more. Does his re-incorporated slider actually help? Is all the talk of a trade that far-fetched? This all should only be in the back of your mind. Paps still dominated. His high strand rate looks like it's the norm. He should remain one of the top stoppers taken.


Jose Valverde, RP, Detroit Tigers
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
2343382017344.191.28

A calf injury cut into his '09, but Jose Valverde dominated post-DL. The vet remains aggressive with his fastballs and, despite a year of swelling aerial attacks, has seen significant groundball jumps in the last two seasons. Few mid-draft options are better as a No. 1.


Joakim Soria, RP, Kansas City Royals
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
43560482020683.001.13

Joakim Soria was often used for more than an inning just to get work in. He relied less on his fastball and upped his dominance as a result. Soria's high strand rates look to be normal. His climbing flyball and HR/FB percentages - and free-pass rate - should be red flags, but the dominant Soria has enough skills to compensate. He's a legit No. 1 mixed closer, arguably in the top five.


Rafael Soriano, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
33562602419533.481.27

Rafael Soriano will close for Tampa coming off a career year. J.P. Howell may steal some closure, though the lefty doesn't do well against his own kind. Soriano's career year hit a shoulder-related speed bump - he's no stranger to injuries - but he trusted his heat again and added a cutter. Making him your top stopper adds risk, though.


Andrew Bailey, RP, Oakland Athletics
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

Andrew Bailey should halt Oakland's tendency to shuffle saves. The righty has more heat and dominance than Brad Ziegler. Problems: His strand rate and BABIP are ripe for normalization, and he's experiencing elbow issues this spring, which he says might be workload-related. He's a risky No. 1, but if you grab him as a No. 2 mixed closer, you should be OK to handle his indicator corrections.


Kerry Wood, RP, Cleveland Indians
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

Don't ignore Kerry Wood's improvements after July. He brought his cutter back and helped normalize his HR/FB. Flyball rise scary, but his grounders climbed for the second straight year. He'll be sidelined for six to eight weeks but is still a good stash commodity in deep leagues for when he comes back from the DL. It might be a long stay, but if you're afraid of your closer crop, you could do worse than grabbing him as insurance.


Mike Gonzalez, RP, Baltimore Orioles
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

You know you're getting strikeouts here, even with Mike Gonzalez's shaky control. He regained his strand rate and stayed healthy. The O's aren't much for save chances, but they don't have any pressing competition; plus, they made a two-year commitment to the lefty. He's in line to be a fantasy steal late in the game.


Bobby Jenks, RP, Chicago White Sox
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

Looks to be OK after late-season calf injury. Bobby Jenks' K rate climbed again, but he may be a better pitcher if he doesn't rear back as much. The team is concerned about his conditioning; they have the capable Matt Thornton in the sock drawer and also acquired J.J. Putz. Many will see Jenks as poison, meaning you can tab him as value.


David Aardsma, RP, Seattle Mariners
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

David Aardsma's innate strikeout ability finally translated to shutting doors. His control remained an issue. Fluke alert: His HR/FB, LOB and BABIP scream letdown. Aardsma boasts gas, but his sputtering at the end of the year forecasted his normalized 2010 value. Pegging him as a No. 3 closer would acknowledge enough risk; Brandon League is a threat to Aardsma's security.


Kevin Gregg, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
2045442124404.201.51

Kevin Gregg will set up to start the season. His flyball rate led to blowup in Chicago last year. Opponents' homer success on those flies dictate poor luck for the righty. Rogers Centre not as friendly for dingers as Wrigley Field. Has more career saves than those he competed with; his ERA and WHIP aren't helpful, but his useful K/9 adds to his saves speculation value as a potential late-round mixed steal.


Frank Francisco, RP, Texas Rangers
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

DL stints clouded productive season. Frank Francisco's splits favor road performance, especially with flyball vulnerability. Another year with frequent splitter use might temper the latter. Most important: his decrease in walks. Bid with his fragility in mind, but doesn't strip his value as a No. 2 stopper; don't be afraid to lock up his high-end K skills.


Brian Fuentes, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

Remember, saves don't equal skills. Brian Fuentes used to have better versions of the latter, but his K's collapsed and his stuff became more hittable. The Angels were comfortable mixing in Kevin Jepsen to nudge a save situation in the right direction. Now they have a more skilled righty, Fernando Rodney, they could use for that. The Halos probably want to prevent Fuentes' 2011 option from vesting, so expect the saves to noticeably drop.


Jon Rauch, RP, Minnesota Twins
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

Jon Rauch rebounded by increasing his groundball rate; his new cutter helped. Flyball issues lurk. Closer Joe Nathan will miss 2010 season; Minny is trying a committee approach for saves, barring a trade. Rauch has the most experience among non-Nathan Twins relievers. While Rauch won't be saving games every day at first, he's the best bet to emerge from this batch as the top option. He's a low-end No. 3 mixed closer but could be a value pick in AL setups. The word "committee" might scare off your competitors.


Matt Thornton, RP, Chicago White Sox
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
2250512218373.961.38

Matt Thornton held down the fort when Bobby Jenks was out of action during two stints. The fastball-slider southpaw throws hard, which is reflected in his dominance. Fleeting Bobby Jenks trade rumors give Thornton supreme handcuff value. J.J. Putz still has to prove he's effective, but he'll probably cloud this picture, as well.


J.P. Howell, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

ABRHHRRBISBBAOBPSLGOPS
000000.000.000.000.000

After rising from the cluster of multiple options, J.P. Howell became the lead stopper. This year, he'll be the main understudy to Rafael Soriano; there's slight hope for Howell, because Soriano has an extensive history (including last year). Howell's K rate has climbed in every season despite his soft stuff, but he still has control problems. He'll also miss the first month or so of the season with shoulder fatigue. He might see the occasional chance here and there if Soriano is healthy, but without save chances, Howell is not much better than a waiver wire reliever. Don't overvalue him.


Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
3245351617453.201.16

Triple-digit velocity preps him for either starting or relief role; he could fill in at closer if needed. Rangers aren't rushing his top-end stuff. Warning: Neftali Feliz's velocity faltered late, and he might have been fatigued. He's worth drafting for his LIMA skills, but bumps in the road will hurt more if he isn't in line for many wins or saves.


Michael Wuertz, RP, Oakland Athletics
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

Michael Wuertz's K/9 came back with authority, and he boasted control to boot by moving exclusively to a fastball-slider combo. Even if command comes back to earth, Wuertz showed he could be trusted in save situations last year and boasts the best non-Andrew Bailey skills for saves speculation.


Kevin Jepsen, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
2045462017424.001.40

Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney stand in his way for saves, but Kevin Jepsen's skills could be the best of the three if he can improve his control. Developing a slider/cutter last year helped the groundball-friendly righty, making him useful in deep leagues last year. Jepsen boasts the skills that will warrant speculation in AL-only leagues; you can probably wait until after mixed drafts for him, but don't ignore his upside.


Matt Guerrier, RP, Minnesota Twins
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
00000000.000.00

Matt Guerrier dazzled in '09, chiefly via BABIP help. Closer Joe Nathan's likely season-long absence opens up saves, but Guerrier doesn't overpower bats and is better employed eating setup innings. He's reliable and will probably receive a few opps, but Guerrier is a secondary plan for Twins speculators.


Chris Perez, RP, Cleveland Indians
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
3156532221553.541.32

Chris Perezhit stride in middle of the season when he harnessed the potential in his dangerous slider. Fixed his control issues before late-season blowup. Flyballs still a problem. He'll start 2010 as closer with Kerry Wood on the DL. Perez is a No. 3 mixed closer and should be kept on deep rosters even if/when Wood returns.


Jason Frasor, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
3050441922483.421.32

Jason Frasor will close to start the season. He added a splitter-changeup hybrid that transformed his game. High strand rate first red flag. Odd that flyball rate spikes with incorporation of downward-moving pitch. Has dominance to remain valuable even if ratios bite him this year, though. A mixed No. 3 stopper whose saves might be pilfered throughout the season. If he's your No. 1 AL closer, the return probably won't justify his price.


Scott Downs, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
3245431518343.001.36

Lower-body injuries forced Scott Downs to vacate closer role; was cruising beforehand. Decently dominant, grounder-heavy southpaw works in high strand rates, too. He'll be a setup man to start, but it wouldn't hurt to test whether Downs will earn some closures if his two competitors are already taken in deep leagues. He can help you without save chances.


Fernando Rodney, RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
43665502231713.051.25

Early reports hint they'll use Fernando Rodney in the seventh. Right. Skipper Mike Scioscia wasn't afraid to throw a righty in to spell Brian Fuentes, and this could become a split situation. Rodney worked around a ton of trouble last year, but his peripherals weren't outrageous. His ERA will bring him down.


Brandon League, RP, Seattle Mariners
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2010 Fantasy Baseball Projections

WSVIPHERBBKERAWHIP
3061592622413.841.33

Second-half growth and changeup love gave fireballer diversity. His high groundball levels double his closer potential. BABIP normalization might be negated by strand rate recovery. There are some cracks in David Aardsma. Bold Brandon League's name on your saves speculation lists.